Travels with Charley

The cool camping blog. Trying to find gear, supplies, adventure and activities for the 21st century camper.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Food - Dutch Oven Cooking

My dad has a dutch oven that he always took on our camping trips. He usually made cherry cobbler with it. I had been thinking about getting one to try some recipes out last summer and did a lot of research. I got one at the Gander Mountain store and made chili in it two times. I think I'm going to get at least one more for this year so I can make dessert in one too.

In case you don't know, a dutch oven is either a cast iron or aluminum pot with a heavy lid. One for camping have legs that hold them up off of the ground a bit and a bailing handle. The lid typically has a heavy lip so that hot coals can be set on top of the oven without them sliding off, and it can be turned upside down to use as a griddle. Experts use charcoal briquettes and though I will probably use them more often in the future, I have put the pot right in the fire. Lodge has a very good chart on how to regulate temperature with briquettes.

I don't know what's the fascination with dutch ovens. Maybe it's related to my fascination with cast iron cookware, like my grill. Maybe it's nostalgia, but whatever the reason, I'm not the only one. Byron's website is probably the best and most comprehensive on the web, with tips, recipes and pictures. The Caddo Area Dutch Oven Group has a nice site as well with good recipes. And there's the International DO Society that sanctions cookoffs.

Besides the above mentioned sites, other sources include:

Dutch Oven Cooking

A very good primer on choosing and using DOs

Places to Buy:
Kampers Kettle

Activity - Hike a Scenic or Historic Trail

If you really want to get out and see America and its wide open spaces, hiking a historic or national scenic trail may be just for you. We're not talking day hikes where you pack a loaf of bread and a bottle of burgundy, but the kind where you carry everything on your back, get all funky dirty smelling and chased by bears kind of hiking. Obviously not for the faint of heart, but if you're up for it, these trails can offer breathtaking views and a perspective on history that few others will ever have. Many of these trails span multiple states and thousands of miles. Some cross national borders.

The original national scenic trails were started on the east and west coasts almost simultaneously in the 1920's. The west coast trail became the Pacific Crest Trail and the east coast had the Appalachian Trail. At the time these were called Trails for America, but were made official National Trails in 1968. National Recreation Trails and National Historical Trails soon followed. The Scenic trails are supposed to showcase the best in American scenery for the hiker, going through pristine lands, at times far far away from civilization.

What you get is a chance to truly walk America, possibly as it once was, before civilization took over. Hikers can go for hundreds of miles and never cross another person or even a road.

There are currently eight Scenic Trails and many more of the Recreation and Historic. Their websites seem to be sporadically organized for the Scenic Trails, but I found the NPS link for them HERE. The Recreation and Historic trails can easily be found at NPS.GOV.

Other sites to be found include:
Pacific Crest Trail
Appalachian Trail
GORP's Guide to Scenic Trails (reg required)

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Gear - Binoculars Pt. 2

Last year I posted a review of binoculars. Well, I wish I had run across Michael Hodgson's Adventure Network. On his site, I discovered that he has a very short, succinct guide to which kind of binoculars you will want depending on your usage. He also has some simple tips on care and cleaning.

Of course, now that I start looking, I find lots of sources for choosing binocs. Here's a few:

Chuck Hawk's Guide Very in depth, almost a small booklet on the topic.'s Guide From their birding group

My favorite camping catolog, Campmor, has a ton of binoculars for sale.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Drive By Post #2 - Activities

Again, not much time, but lots of ideas. Here's several ideas for having fun while out camping:

#1 Go fly a kite.
I have always had a thing with kites and model rockets. Whenever we go camping I like to have one of my smaller kites with me. It helps to have a smaller packable kite, like those at Go Fly A Kite. Or bring these instructions along with you to make your own.

#2 Bored Games. What to do when you're rained in? One of the simpler games from my childhood that I played on trips was Michigan Rummy or Tripoley. Not much to it, just some cards, some chips that you don't even wager with and a plastic tray. Pretty waterproof, and, with snacks and beverage, a lot of fun and easy to pass the time on a rainy evening.

#3 Don't Blog. I hope that while you're camping you can wait to get home to type in your blog. However, keeping a journal or sketch book can be a great activity while you're out in the wilderness and nature. Get yourself a Moleskine and some pencils and sit in a quiet spot and do some writing or sketching. Check out Moleskinerie and the Pencil Revolution for inspiration.